As the homeless crisis on America’s West Coast forces many cities to the financial brink, one innovative animal shelter in San Francisco is using a low cost, high-tech robot security guard to shoo away the homeless outside its facilities, the San Francisco Business Times reported.
The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) contracted Knightscope to provide a k5 robot (the same model which in July commited suicide at a mall fountain) for securing the outdoor spaces of the animal shelter. Knightscope’s business model allows the SPCA to rent the robot for around $7 an hour, which is about $3 less than the minimum wage in California. According to San Francisco Business Times, the robot was deployed as a “way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.”
The robot, weighing in at 400 pounds and standing over 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, has been autonomously patrolling the sidewalks of the facility with a top speed of 3 MPH for more than a month, as far as we can tell. Sensors and fancy technology integrated with-in the robot are used to deter the pesky homeless from setting up shop.
Jennifer Scarlett, president of the SPCA told the Business Times: “We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment.”
Here it is in action pic.twitter.com/nSBQUmKwk1— Sam Dodge (@samueldodge) December 9, 2017
One resident was “freaked out” as the robot patrols the parking lot of the facility.
Another resident caught the robot cruising down the sidewalk at top speed.
The social media reaction, on the other hand, has been overwhelmingly negative, shaming the SPCA for deploying the robot for targeting the homeless, while some blamed capitalism.
Dear San Francisco,— Leslie Lee III (@leslieleeiii) December 12, 2017
It is your duty to destroy these things if you see them. https://t.co/VZ1vWe5KyM
Yes, 2017 was the first time I saw robots used to prevent encampments in SF. Hard to believe but it’s real. https://t.co/Xo41veNfPN— Sam Dodge (@samueldodge) December 9, 2017
Capitalism: instead of providing homes for homeless people, spend exorbitant sums of money creating robots that will prevent homeless people from making homes for themselveshttps://t.co/FowyreaUTV— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) December 13, 2017
Nevertheless, San Francisco recently voted on a bill to decrease the number of robots on city streets. According to the San Francisco Business Times, the city could charge the SPCA a fine upwards of $1,000 per day for not complying with the new regulations operating on city-owned sidewalks.
In a particularly dystopian move by the SPCA, the autonomous robot purging the homeless from city streets in San Fransico may be a harbinger of what is coming to America’s inner cities as the humans slowly but surely lose the war against robots, first in the labor market and then, everywhere else.